I got really wrapped up in the recent presidential election and had high hopes of some exciting changes happening if Mitt Romney won. I spent a lot of time and emotional/mental energy following the issues and listening to the arguments on both sides and developing my positions, and when I felt it start to unravel near the end I got really frustrated because I felt like my voice was not being represented. I came out of that experience thinking I somehow needed to figure out how to communicate better and to be more willing to speak out for what I believe. I am surrounded by so many talented people and it is easy for me to discount my contribution on the content side in favor for my contribution behind the scenes. I do not seek the spotlight ever, however it was really hard to watch that election come and go and feel unnoticed. So here goes...
I am a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of 5. I work full-time from home in a male-dominated field as a software engineer for a liberal-leaning, socially conscious and politically correct company in Silicon Valley. My husband, to whom I've been married for 15 years, is a record producer and a musician and we are both very active in the local artist and music community, which we find to be quite diverse and open-minded and culturally interesting, beyond just being ultra talented and inspiring. We live in Provo, Utah but come originally from Los Angeles. I'm a social and fiscal conservative. I'm an active Mormon. I am a walking contradiction.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about gender roles within our church, even going so far as several women proposing a protest where they wear pants to church on Sunday to show solidarity in support of women's rights and gender equality. A lot of it is not new. Some of it has come out more visibly since women's issues and Mormonism were such a big part of the election. But either way it is happening now and I have been confronted with the fact that this is really not my issue and it doesn't move me one way or the other, but then if that is so how can I think of myself as enlightened and open minded?
It has been very interesting to me to be close friends with Courtney while she's been going through so much introspection and self realization as she writes her life story, and also while she has been put into a position (and put herself into a position) where she is an advocate for women's rights in the church and in life in general. I respect and appreciate her thoughtful approach and her desire to think things through and discuss and consider all sides and form intelligent positions - we have thought-provoking conversations and she is always interested in my take and experience. I also appreciate her strong testimony of the gospel, her sensitivity to the Spirit, and her desire to be righteous and faithful.
Then it was an A-HA moment for me one day when I realized "why would it ever even occur to a woman that she's not valued or just as important as boys are to Heavenly Father" and right then and there I realized where I'd come from and why this is not my issue.
I do not look for evidence or gestures to show me that I'm important because I already KNOW that I am. It's like asking, "what evidence do you have that you're alive" and your immediate thought is "why would you ask me that, of course I know that I am alive, it's not even an interesting issue or discussion." But for someone that is very sick and near death they might spend a good deal of their time paying attention to evidence of their declining or improving health. Now that does not mean that the evidence doesn't exist for me too and when pressed I can think through experiences and opportunities I've had at church and in life that reinforce my views, just like I could do if I really needed to catalog the checklist of things that mean I am alive.
One of the most valuable lessons my mom ever taught us was to "assume love" and I have realized that for me that also extends to "assume equality". With the idea that I am not loved or that I am not considered equal off the table, it frees me up to interpret and understand other peoples actions in different ways and potentially to get outside myself more and realize it's usually not even about me at all.
There is no doubt that he has some deep-seeded traditional views as to gender roles and at least for me part of my life experience has been to separate from that a bit and chart my own path. But even when he'd say to me "anything less than 6 kids is a waste of your talents" (sorry dad - I'm stopping at 5!) it was clear that he was not suggesting that my role as a woman was to be quiet and sit at home and have babies but rather that he recognized and valued my strength and capabilities and wanted to encourage me reach my potential. He was the one advising me in college to pursue a degree in a male-dominated field because he knew it suited me and it could provide flexibility that could be beneficial to my family in the long run (which it has). It has been eye-opening and disheartening to me to realize that not all dads were like this and not all husbands treat their wives this way. That is sad.
Having been grounded by this base-level understanding of my individual worth at home, all my experiences throughout my life have only served to reinforce and help develop my sense of self - from church, to school, work, friends, family, my marriage, and my roles in our home.
This is why I do not like the label Feminist - not because I don't believe women are just as good as (if not better in many ways) than men and ought to be treated that way and not because I don't agree with many tenets of their beliefs - but because it is a loaded and divisive and inflammatory label. It is black and white in a very grey area - they want you to declare that you're either one or else you're not. Plus it's not even an adequately descriptive term - it still requires you to qualify what type of feminist you are or what type of equality you believe in. And this pants protest is the same way - it will be loaded and divisive and inflammatory and inadequately descriptive when the discussion doesn't need to be that way.
I am anxious and willing to be a part of the changes that will help all women realize their individual worth in the eyes of God. Even if I'm wearing a skirt.
(because really, skirts are better anyway)